Monday, October 10, 2011

columella salad

Not too long ago, Adam came home with an exciting piece of information - a friend of his had bought a cookbook filled with ancient Roman recipes. How fun! My interest in ancient Greece and Rome goes back many many years, and in fact the first half of my degree was in classical studies. I took three years of Latin and I still bristle when I hear it described as a dead language. Even though I can't read it anymore. Sad!

My interest in Latin started early, but my love for Latin began in a classroom at Langara College. Everybody has that one teacher in their academic career who serves as their inspiration and Gwyneth Lewis was mine. Her love of classical history and quirky sense of humour made that first year the most memorable class of my BA. I'll never forget the story of Quintus, Flaccus and Scintilla, nor all the awesome illustrations in the Oxford Latin Course textbooks!

I found this after being inspired by the existence of such a cookbook and googling "ancient Roman recipes." I'm not sure how authentic it is (and of course, I used bocconcini as it seemed appropriate, but who knows what kind of cheese would actually have been used!). The original recipe - included by Columella in Re Rustica - seems to call for everything to be crushed in a mortar and pestle, even the cheese. I diced the cheese and crushed everything else. It was delicious, bold and a welcome change from the standard bocconcini salad I usually make.

columella salad
Adapted from Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome

Addito in mortarium satureiam, mentam, rutam, coriandrum, apium, porrum sectivum, aut si non erit viridem cepam, folia latucae, folia erucae, thymum viride, vel nepetam, tum etiam viride puleium, et caseum recentem et salsum: ea omnia partier conterito, acetique piperati exiguum, permisceto. Hanc mixturam cum in catillo composurris, oleum superfundito. (Columella, Re Rustica, XII-lix)

Oh, you need the English? Me too. :-(

2 cups (loose) fresh mint
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh parsley
1 small leek (white and light green parts only)
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
200g bocconcini (approximately 4 medium sized balls)
coarse salt (or regular salt)
white wine vinegar
olive oil

Dice bocconcini and toss with a small drizzle of olive oil and coarse salt. Set aside.

Chop mint, cilantro, parsley and leek, then crush in a mortar and pestle. Add the herbs to the cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar to your taste. Grind some pepper over the whole thing, then toss.

This is best served nice and cold, so let it chill for a bit before serving.

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